This is a difficult thing to do, so let me share some briefs of recent failures.
Failure To Launch
I recently retired a plugin. It’s a good plugin, complex and clever and does things in a wickedly smart way. And its an absolute failure because it lacked the ability to solve one problem, perhaps the biggest problem it was intended to solve.
The plugin was more complex in ways that it didn’t need to be. I spent a lot of time thinking about one use case, and I never looked far enough to think about the real world, which ended with this plugin only being used by 600 or so people, and most of them grumblingly.
Accepting my loss, I recognized that I’d coded myself into a hole, wrote uninstall code, and apologized. A lot.
Failure to Maintain
I closed my ebook store recently. Quietly. Because it was so much work to update and maintain, and it was draining me. I kept all my books on Amazon, where they sell much better with much less work, and redirected everything.
The problem was I wasn’t making enough money on it to justify it. While I had intelligently made changes to inspire people to purchase instead of download for free, and I strongly believe in letting them be free when they need to be, it’s just a lot of work. A lot. I was spending time I wasn’t earning on. Nor enjoying.
Failure to Communicate
There’s someone who hates me right now. They think I’m a terrible person, that I hate them, that I want them to fail. Because I was unable to explain sufficiently why what they were doing was wrong. I’ve tried appealing to them, offering them more exceptions and time than I usually do (ever) for a fix that should be simple.
For some reason, we just can’t bridge the gap. They won’t listen. And no matter what I say, they only see hatred in it. I can’t convince them otherwise. And yes, that smarts. It’s a terrible feeling to not have failed myself, but to have failed someone else, to the point they feel they have no recourse.
Accepting you’ve failed at something is hard. Thankfully in all three cases, I feel like I’ve learned something from them. I learned how to control my temper, how to watch the weight of my words. I’ve learned how to properly write and run an ebusiness, and why I don’t want to. I’ve learned how to gracefully degrade a plugin.
But knowing I failed still does hurt.
So all I can do is learn from it and move on.